Ok, rather unexpectedly I have a new obsession that I didn't see coming... the first one since Black Flag.
I reviewed this long before but now it has seized me. I play obsessively, logging in daily to get my rewards, compete in challenges, and stab other living people in the brain; a pasttime that I am shockingly good at all of the sudden.
I've never been much of a multiplayer/online game. I'm of that old school stock that knew multiplayer as two people, side by side on a couch or at an arcade cabinet, following an unspoken covenant of archaic rules as they either fought to the death or cooperated to bring down goals that seemed impossible alone. When Street Fighter IV first appeared I eagerly logged in to play beat-a-fool but the situation was IMMEDIATELY soured by fireball spammers and other honorless curs who kept calling me a scrub. The problems I had extended on to each and every MP game I tried to play; always there was some kid, 140 levels higher than me, who would spam an attack or call in an airstrike, or some other unbalanced shit that resulted in my experience being "spawn, die, repeat' until it just sickened me. Somehow Sparatacus avoids that.
First I applaud the EXCELLENT match-making. Rarely have I ever fought anyone who was more than 3 levels above me. Sure, some spent real-money to skip ahead an buy advanced equipment but none of that resulted in cheesy kills. Yeah, kids still spam attack buttons but since each style has its own strategy this can be overcome by smart tactics. The result is the BEST competitive MP online I have ever been part of. The next closest thing is the MP from Assbro! I don't win all the time but I can honestly say when I lose I deserve to, on the whole.
Spartacus isn't perfect, graphically it is a boor, and for all Ubisoft's efforts to monetize it they sure haven't done shit with DLC like new styles, more weapons, or new arenas. It has it's share of glitches, occasional connection hiccups, and an UNFORGIVING rule in place for disconnects that punishes EVERYONE. Disconnect too often, even through no fault of your own, and your gladiator is FORFEIT; that is to say deleted! The surprising result is I have yet to see anyone rage-quit. (According to the forums this problem was more prevalent on Xbox.) Yet, despite all these niggling qualms, it manages to be a fun game to play.
I was a HUGE fan of the show, in full discolosure, although I haven't seen all the seasons. This isn't for the squeamish... or the prudish. While the official title of season one was Spartacus: Blood and Sand we all just called it Spartacus: Blood and Horse C**k. It is unforgiving in its portrayal of ancient Rome's savage and carnal pastimes. The game spares you any of the sex and the gore is comically underrepresented by paltry graphics but it still manages to scratch that itch left by the passing of the show.
My new favorite strategy is to buy crap-slaves on the cheap at 420 silver and then match them in life-or-death contests where even death results in 450 silver and success means a payout of over 3000! As a Lanista, losing my fear of losing my gladiators meant that my Ludus is starting to prosper. Sure, I lose a slave here or there (There is an option to resurrect them but at a starting price of 1500 silver for a slave worth only 420 it can become an economic decision very quickly) but the big picture is that I a now raking in the coins, both silver and gold. And that's what makes this a better game than what it used to be...
At launch this game featured only two ways to get gold; 1) buy it for real money (up to 3k gold for 149.99) or 2) raise your level; whereas you'd make the paltry sum of 4 gold. Gold is spent for things like high rated gladiators, early access to advanced equipment, changing perks (available when you actually kill an opponent and they act as a boost to your stats,) or they can be traded in for massive amounts of silver (but never the other way around.) If you frequently resurrect your slaves the price quickly goes from silver to gold as well. Under the old system just getting 4 coins could take HOURS of grinding but now, with daily challenges and rewards, I can make 20-30 gold in just 15 fights! This new setup means that Spartacus has gone from pay-to-play to a true free-to-play game.
How do you measure a real rating for a game? If you're like me, in addition to considerations for graphics, music, controls etc there is the element of Fun. Fun brought my favorite game, Blood Will Tell, from my initial rating of 6.5 to a 10. I initially gave Spartacus a 6.5...
Now I easily give it an 8.